In pre-pandemic times Rob Dunnill introduced the term 'pure hockey filth' into the vernacular of the M1's. The term had become redundant, that was until the M1's entertained Brighton on Sunday in a match the visitors had to win to retain any hope of avoiding the drop out of EHL Division One.
Hawks started brightly and won their first penalty corner in the third minute after smart work from Ted Bennett. Two attempts were scrambled well by the Brighton defence but at the third time of asking Jack Biggs played a one-two with Charlie Neat and finished from eight yards to give Hawks an early lead. However, Hawks game plan was turned on its head in the tenth minute when Dunnill was given a ten minute suspension when he lost his footing in trying to make a tackle and took his opponent to ground with him. To make matters worse, four minutes later Kiran Patel was also given a very harsh ten minute suspension and so Hawks were down to nine men and very much up against it. However, they dug in and demonstrated great resolve and fitness to deny Brighton any clear cut openings despite their numerical advantage. And as if to emphasise their mental resilience, within two minutes of getting eleven players back on the pitch Hawks put together a superb play, transferring the ball swiftly around the back before Ed Ellis stepped through the press and played a pin-point pass to Archie Winter. Winter turned his marker and worked his way into the circle before squaring a pass to eliminate the Brighton keeper and find a diving Patel to finish from close range. 2-0 and some breathing space. Two minutes before the break Winter had the chance to make if three when a quick counter attack saw him one-on-one with the Brighton keeper. But the keeper made a good stick save to thwart the chance.
The third quarter saw Brighton come out of the blocks fast and win a penalty corner within seconds of the restart. Hawks defended well and although they created opportunities for themselves, Brighton played like a team fighting for their lives. But their main threat of long balls into the circle were mostly well dealt with by the Hawks rearguard, who also saw off whatever Brighton could muster at penalty corners. Hawks effectively put the game to bed in the opening minute of the fourth quarter when Biggs, Dunnill and Drew Blackburn exchanged quick passes inside the Hawks half before Blackburn found Bennett with a smart pass down the right flank. Bennett in turn moved the ball on to Winter who then wrong-footed the Brighton defence with a square pass across the circle to the waiting Ned Trimble who finished off an eye-catching move. Pure hockey filth - a great shame that it was not caught on camera (Dunners, please note). Brighton continued to press and win penalty corners, but couldn't find a way past Chris Price in the Hawks goal. It took another long ball into the circle to finally break their duck when a very smart deflection gave Price no chance. Brighton won further penalty corners which they could not convert and with five minutes remaining Hawks put the game beyond Brighton's reach when a penalty corner break down saw the ball fall to Trimble to notch his second of the game and take the score to 4-1. Both sides won and failed to convert penalty corners in the dying minutes and so it was Hawks that ran out deserved winners and leave Brighton in reflective mood on their journey back to the south coast. Two league matches and a cup quarter final remain for the M1's before the season closes.
Thanks to Clive Jones for the excellent photos.